Sunday evening the Bobcats continued their Summer League season against the Dallas Mavericks, looking to log their first win in Las Vegas. The Bobcats got it, receiving key contributions from all the players they hoped they would be able to and were able to withstand a series of late Mavericks rallies to seal the victory. And I had a courtside seat for all of the action from media row at Cox Pavilion.
The Bobcats were able to jump on the Mavericks early thanks in part to Dallas' poor shooting out of the gate and Jeffery Taylor and Cody Zeller's hot start. Together, the tandem was able to stretch the opposition's defense. Jerome Dyson got to the line twice and Bismack Biyombo had three early rebounds to give the Bobcats a 20-10 lead after the first quarter. Yes, the Bobcats played well but it should be noted the Mavericks only shot 22.2 percent from the floor in the quarter and missed all five shots from distance as well.
As the second quarter rolled around, Charlotte brought the energy. Which was both a negative and a positive. On the plus side, the Bobcats were very active on the glass, out-rebounding Dallas 12-4 in the quarter. Negatively, Taylor --despite playing well -- picked up three fouls and a pair of turnovers, taking away from the luster of his 10 point start on 4-for-6 shooting. If there's such a thing as too much confidence, Taylor was playing with it, but it was good to see him along with Zeller and Biyombo playing aggressively. However, the big caveat was still that the Mavericks hadn't figured out how to make the ball go through the basket, shooting 29 percent from the field and 8 percent from three at the half.
Cody Zeller was terrific in the first half, and was the star of the show for the Bobcats. Through two quarters Zeller nearly notched a double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds with no turnovers to boot. We'll have to see how this all translates over to the regular season but Zeller never shied away from contact -- setting screens, taking charges, posting up, etc. The competition was very typical of Summer League and Zeller looked as a high lottery pick should: a man among boys. The Mavericks frontcourt struggled to match with his athleticism and when coupled with his basketball instincts he proved to be too much for them most times.
While the Bobcats' top prospects fared well, things came undone when they had to rely on their bench to lead the charge. Dyson and Patrick Ewing Jr. had combined for eight turnovers to that point, as the Bobcats went on to committing 11 turnovers in the third quarter alone. Had the Mavericks been able to truly catch fire, the Bobcats would have been in more trouble than they were. The only reason the Mavericks ever really began to develop any sort of offensive rhythm was when the Bobcats would commit a turnover and Dallas would turn it around for a quick transition bucket. Were it not for their rebounding, the Mavericks would have been a lot closer than they were as the third quarter wrapped up.
Up 67-51 to begin the third, this felt like one of those regular season games that gave you a bad feeling as the game wore on. The Bobcats got their lead in the first half in large part to exceptional shooting and absolutely woeful shooting on the part of the Mavs'. It was likely that neither team was going to be continue at the levels they were early on. Sure enough, the Mavericks shot 8-for-16 in the final quarter and the Bobcats continued to be careless with the ball, allowing the Mavericks back into a game they had no business being in to begin with. I mean, their leading scorer was Jae Crowder who, despite finishing with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, had eight points on seven shots and five turnovers at the end of the third. Yet, thanks to their strong rebounding the Bobcats were able to stave off rally after rally from Dallas for an 86-80 win.
It may not have been a perfect game, but the started strong and didn't let the game slip away for good. Sure, it's just Summer League, but since this team is featuring so many of it's vital future prospects it's important for them to learn to overcome things like this in any setting.
Bismack Biyombo finished with 8 points on 2-3 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, but three fouls and four turnovers. Those turnovers included things like offensive fouls and traveling violations where he shuffles his feet too much. Biyombo has come a long way but needs to learn to not overthink or become too hesitant with the ball, because that's what leads to turnovers.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor were each active on offense and defense. Together, the two players proved to be a pesky tandem on the outside, tipping passes for steals and breakaway layups. The polish on Taylor's game appeared to be more noticeable, but Kidd-Gilchrist fared well shooting 4-4 from the floor and shooting 75 percent from the free throw line. Taylor may have been the team's second-leading scorer with 19 points and five rebounds, but he also had five fouls and three turnovers, likely attributable to him simply trying to do too much. If Taylor finds the proper balance of confidence and is able to carry that over to the regular season, then the Bobcats will be better for it.
We'll have more exclusive coverage from Las Vegas Summer League on Monday night when the Bobcats return to action.